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Vangst ropes in $19 million more to place employees with work in the growing cannabis industry

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Vangst ropes in $19 million more to place employees with work in the growing cannabis industry

In a tight labor market, so-called vertical labor marketplaces that zoom in on one industry, like nursing or hospitality, are drawing funding. Trusted Health, a healthcare staffing platform, raised $149 million in funding in November, for example. Seasoned, a hiring platform for restaurant workers, closed on nearly $19 million at roughly the same time.

Investors are similarly betting there is plenty of upside in a hiring platform focused entirely on the fast-growing cannabis industry, in which an estimated 320,000 people were already working as of last fall, a 32% increase from the year earlier.

Indeed, an investor syndicate led by Level One Fund just plugged $19 million in Series B funding into Vangst, a six-year-old, Denver-based outfit that pairs both short-term workers and full-time employees with job openings at cannabis companies around the U.S. It’s no surprise, given the traction the outfit is seeing, along with the variety of revenue streams it has built.

According to founder and CEO Karson Humiston — who launched the company while an undergraduate student at St. Lawrence University — Vangst currently features 500 “gigs” per week that the platform takes on average 48 hours to fill. (Vangst treats these individuals as W-2 employees, and pays them through its own payroll.) It also right now features nearly 2,000 full-time positions that represent $85 million in gross salaries.

It can start to add up financially. Vangst charges its customers 50% more than it pays its part-time employees, so paying $15 per hour, it might charge a client $22.50 for that employee’s time. As for full-time roles, in exchange for vetting talent that it connects with companies, Vangst takes a percentage of each candidate’s first-year salary.

Vangst also charges employers both monthly and yearly subscriptions for the privilege of posting as many openings as they need to fill and, more recently, it began to build out a content business that includes modules about retail roles and other positions in the cannabis industry that people new to the industry might immediately understand, like, say, what the role of trimmer involves.

It hasn’t all been a bed of rosettes for Humiston and her team. Though Vangst had gained momentum following its Series A round, which closed with $10 million in 2019, like a lot of other hiring businesses, it was hard hit by the immediate ripple effects of the coronavirus. In March of 2020, she says, Vangst was forced to lay off half its then 70-person team as its customers shrank their own payrolls and began operating at 50% of their previous capacity.

In fact, it was because of Vangst’s dwindling revenue that it decided to jump into the business of placing full-time salaried candidates in roles, too. Think accounting managers, product managers, and software engineers. “That was sort of our Covid strategy,” she says.

Gradually, when business bounced back, Vangst had built up an entirely new book of business, says Humiston.

Now the challenge is no longer demand but supply. Like nearly every other employer in the U.S., Vangst, which has 56 employees, is working hard to find people to fill the roles on its platform, including by attending trade shows and spending money on SEO services.

Part of its new funding round will be used to build up its small marketing team, unsurprisingly.

Vangst’s own customers are meanwhile having to sweeten their terms in many cases in order to secure help. As Humiston tells it, “We encourage them to pay above minimum wage” and to “show their mission and values and the perks that they offer.”

The good news: many more new jobs are expected to come online to fill, which should bode well for Vangst when the labor market finds its footing again.

The state of New York, for example, legalized recreational cannabis use last September, and though it is still in process of doling out retail licenses, that decision is expected to open up 60,000 new jobs, according to former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Last fall, New Jersey also signed into law three bills that permit and regulate the use of recreational marijuana, and businesses are already opening up there.

That’s saying nothing of Michigan, which is “growing extremely quickly right now” as a market, Humiston says. (Vangst also has clients in Colorado, California, Nevada, and Arizona, among other places to have already embraced recreational marijuana. There are currently 18 states altogether where it’s legal.)

Eventually, says Humiston, Vangst also hopes to go international. Toward that end, it has upcoming plans to spend time in Barcelona with part of one of its investors, Casa Verde Capital, which is investing more money in European startups these days.

The team has much to master first, she offers. “As here [in the U.S.], where we had to do a lot of learning about business needs and regulatory stuff, we’re eager to learn about international markets. We’re starting that exploration process this spring.”

Source: Tech

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Baidu’s electric car brand Jidu closes $400M Series A round

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Once an industry with long development cycles, the automotive space is being upended by China’s tech giants. One can hardly keep up with all the new electric vehicle brands that come out of the country nowadays. Jidu, an electric carmaking company founded by Baidu and its Chinese auto partner Geely only a year ago, said Wednesday it has banked nearly $400 million in a Series A funding round.

The new injection, bankrolled by Baidu and Geely, which owns Volvo, is a boost to the $300 million initiation capital that Jidu closed last March. The proceeds will speed up Jidu’s R&D and mass production process and allow it to showcase its first concept “robocar” — which it classifies as an automotive robot rather than a car — at the Beijing auto show in April. The mass-produced version of the robocar will launch in 2023.

Jidu’s chief executive Xia Yiping previously headed the connected car unit of Fiat Chrysler in the APAC region and co-founded Mobike, the Chinese bike-sharing pioneer acquired by Meituan in 2018.

The rate at which Jidu has moved forward is remarkable but could easily attract skeptics who question its tech’s viability. The speedy cycle, the carmaker explained, is thanks to its strategy of using a simulated prototype car to develop its smart cockpit and autonomous driving systems, rather than testing individual hardware parts in a mass-produced vehicle.

The carmaker said in as short as nine months, it has “tested and proven” the safety and reliability of its Level 4 (autonomous driving without human interaction in most circumstances) capabilities for urban and highway roads.

The EV startup is also putting a big emphasis on branding and fan community, something its competitor Nio is known for. In December, it started recruiting car lovers to join its “Jidu Union” to geek out about cars at online and offline events.

Moving forward, Jidu will be hiring and training talent specializing in autonomous driving, smart cockpits, smart manufacturing and other related technologies.

Source: Tech

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Resilience raises $45 million for its cancer care startup

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French startup Resilience announced yesterday that it has raised a $45 million (€40 million) Series A round led by Cathay Innovation. The startup wants to improve the treatment journey when you’re diagnosed with cancer so that you live a healthier and longer life.

In addition to Cathay Innovation, existing investor Singular is also participating. Other funds are joining the round, such as Exor Seeds, Picus Capital and Seaya Ventures. Finally some healthcare investors are rounding up the round — Fondation Santé Service, MACSF, Ramsay Santé and Vivalto Ventures.

I already profiled Resilience in March 2021 so I encourage you to read my previous article to learn more about the company. Co-founded by two serial entrepreneurs, Céline Lazorthes and Jonathan Benhamou, the company wants to help both patients and caregivers when it comes to cancer care.

On the patient side, Resilience helps you measure, understand and deal with the effects and side effects of cancer and cancer treatments. Users can track various data points in the app and find content and information about their illness.

But Resilience isn’t just an app that you use at home. It is also a software-as-a-service solution for hospitals so that they can better personalize their treatments. Resilience has been founded in partnership with Gustave Roussy, one of the leading cancer research institutes in the world.

Practitioners will be able to take advantage of all the data that patients have gathered from the app. This way, cancer treatment facilities understand the patient better and can adapt their care more quickly. Resilience has acquired Betterise to gain a head start when it comes to data-driven cancer care.

The long-term vision is even more ambitious than that. If you talk with a caregiver working for a cancer treatment facility, they’ll tell you they never have enough time.

And it’s even more difficult to keep track of new treatments that are becoming more and more specialized. Resilience doesn’t want to replace doctors. But it wants to help them overcome blindspots.

The result should be better care for patients, as well as more support through the Resilience app. Cancer care is a long and painful process, so anything that can improve this process is a good thing.

Source: Tech

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Paack pulls in a $225M Series D led by SoftBank to scale its E-commerce delivery platform

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By now, many of us are familiar with the warehouse robots which populate those vast spaces occupied by the likes of Amazon and others. In particular, Amazon was very much a pioneer of the technology. But it’s 2021 now, and allying warehouse robots with a software logistics platform is no longer the monopoly of one company.

One late-stage startup which has been ‘making hay’ with the whole idea is Paack, an e-commerce delivery platform which a sophisticated software platform that integrates with the robotics which are essential to modern-day logistics operations.

It’s now raised €200m ($225m) in a Series D funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The capital will be used for product development and European expansion.

New participants for this round also include Infravia Capital Partners, First Bridge Ventures, and Endeavor Catalyst. Returning investors include Unbound, Kibo Ventures, Big Sur Ventures, RPS Ventures, Fuse Partners, Rider Global, Castel Capital, and Iñaki Berenguer.

This funding round comes after the creation of a profitable position in its home market of Spain, but Paack claims it’s on track to achieve similar across its European operations, Such as in the UK, France, and Portugal.

Founded by Fernando Benito, Xavier Rosales and Suraj Shirvankar, Paack now says it’s delivering several million orders per month from 150 international clients, processing 10,000 parcels per hour, per site. Some 17 of them are amongst the largest e-commerce retailers in Spain.

The startup’s systems integrate with e-commerce sites. This means consumers are able to customize their delivery schedule at checkout, says the company.

Benito, CEO and Co-founder, said: “Demand for convenient, timely, and more sustainable methods of delivery is going to explode over the next few years and Paack is providing the solution. We use technology to provide consumers with control and choice over their deliveries, and reduce the carbon footprint of our distribution.” 

Max Ohrstrand, Investment Director at SoftBank Investment Advisers said: “As the e-commerce sector continues to flourish and same-day delivery is increasingly the norm for consumers, we believe Paack is well-positioned to become the category leader both in terms of its technology and commitment to sustainability.”

According to research from the World Economic Forum (WEF), the last-mile delivery business is expected to grow 78% by 2030, causing a rise in CO2 emissions of nearly one-third.

As a result, Paack claim it aims to deliver all parcels at carbon net-zero by measuring its environmental impact, using electric last-mile delivery vehicles. It is now seeking certification with The Carbon Trust and United Nations.

In an interview Benito told me: “We have a very clear short term vision which is to lead sustainable e-commerce delivers in Europe… through technology via what we think is perhaps the most advanced tech delivery platform for last-mile delivery. Our CTO was the CTO and co-founder of Google Cloud, for instance.”

“We are developing everything from warehouse automation, time windows, routing integrations etc. in order to achieve the best delivery experience.”

Paack says it is able to work with more than one robotics partner, but presently it is using robots from Chinese firm GEEK.

The company hopes it can compete with the likes of DHL, Instabox, and La Poste in Europe, which are large incumbents.

Source: Tech

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